Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Crocs Can Surf!! Can They?

From :

Steve Irwin surveillance-crocodiles travel across oceans

Croc-botherer devised 'innovative capture techniques'

Before his death, legendary Aussie reptile-botherer Steve Irwin helped to plant tracking bugs on a large number of saltwater crocodiles. Boffins analysing data from the bugs now report that the crocs, despite being poor swimmers who mainly live in shallow estuarine waters, are capable of making long ocean voyages.

According to Dr Hamish Campbell of Queensland uni, who tagged up 27 full-grown crocs with assistance from Irwin and others some years ago, the toothy creatures have managed to spread throughout the Indian and Pacific ocean by making long voyages across the open sea.
"The estuarine crocodile occurs as island populations throughout the Indian and Pacific ocean, and regular mixing between the island populations probably occurs," explains the doc.
Famous crocmeister Irwin, who died after being poisoned by a stingray in 2006, was apparently instrumental in the tricky business of bugging the huge, several-metre-long estuarine Crocodylus porosi involved in the study. According to Queensland uni:
The late Steve Irwin, the original Crocodile Hunter, developed innovative capture techniques of crocodiles to ensure the team were 100 percent safe. Steve was instrumental in the strategies developed to minimize stress on crocodiles throughout the research and he was integral to the success of the research project.
The doc has gone through 1.2 million data packets from the crocs bugged by Irwin and his other colleagues, and added records from other projects too. He has logged crocodiles making open-sea journeys across hundreds of kilometres.

His analysis indicates that the crafty crocodiles don't swim much during such trips, but rather travel with the tides and ocean currents. If the sea isn't flowing the way the croc wants, it will normally beach itself somewhere handy and wait for conditions to change.

"Because these crocodiles are poor swimmers, it is unlikely that they swim across vast tracts of ocean," says Campbell. "But they can survive for long periods in salt-water without eating or drinking, so by only travelling when surface currents are favourable, they would be able to move long distances by sea. This not only helps to explains how estuarine crocodiles move between oceanic islands, but also contributes to the theory that crocodilians have crossed major marine barriers during their evolutionary past."

The doc's research is to be published this month in the Journal of Animal Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01709.x. ®

Monday, June 21, 2010

"One Tiger skull please, poached with salt on the side"

So you have trade routes confirmed, you know what the hubs are, you know what the hotspots are.. You have the weapons, ammunition, manpower, authority, ability... but someone stole your WILL? We tackle terrorism when someone walks into our country and blows our people apart blatantly. We can tackle Maoists when they blow up our officers, derail trains and kill hundreds of innocent people. But we cannot, for some completely UNFATHOMABLE reason, tackle poaching. A crisis that has been slapping us in our faces for decades, centuries, I don't know how long. Every other day a Leopard here, a Deer there, a Tiger here, an Otter there, a Crocodile here, a Sloth bear there; every single day. 
   And the Government of this country somehow expects us to believe that it cannot do anything about it. Merely writing in your Constitution that something titled 'xyz' is illegal does NOTHING. You need to implement laws, amend them if they're useless. 
  And traditional Chinese medicines for WHAT!? You're the most populated country on the face of the PLANET! You need medication for IMPOTENCY if you need anything!!!! Even if half your country dies off, you will still have enough people and sources [not resources] to survive for 4 generations!!! What ARE they trying to DO!? Im actually stunned at how hopelessly pathetic this China is. And Japan also... Sitting and legalizing Whaling. One country will kill everything terrestrial. The other will kill everything aquatic. Amazing.
   These two countries epitomize Contract Killing. There is nothing that can be more apt to be described as terrorism. Environmental terrorism. Single handedly being able to wipe out not just their OWN resources in terms of wildlife, but also those of neighbouring countries, is QUITE a skill really. 
   The question is, why isnt wildlife considered just as important as any other national and at this point in time, international crises? Why doesn't any one care about what happens to the wildlife? Don't Chinese schools teach their kids that without the wilderness, mankind's extinction is imminent? I am of the strong opinion that China, Japan, Norway, all all those countries who want to legalize Tiger trade and Whale trade respectively, should be TRADED to Hell. And honestly, I don't give a rat's posterior about how Im sounding right now. The fact is, animals get poached because there is :
a) a huge demand, b) pathetic management, c) crazy levels of corruption, d) super weak laws and implementation, e) immense underplaying of these issues in the media and on the international front, f) lack of awareness about the condition we're in and the condition we're bringing upon ourselves and the future generations. 
   No wonder then that we're in this situation. Jairam Ramesh or no Jairam Ramesh it is not HIS sole duty to sit and protect the environment. It's a legal responsibility of every single citizen of India.. god knows about other countries. I think Japan's Constitution demands spearing lessons for children of all ages with spears of varying lengths and dimensions. China probably teaches "poachingopathy" instead of naturopathy... 
    And then there are these amazing organizations like Greenpeace who will sit and fight and fight for the Whales... and one fine day, suddenly say, ok fine, we're tired now, just kill all the Whales you want and don't tell anyone we allowed you to. There goes another species... and another. And you really think they'll stop at this!? Humpback's will go extinct, they'll eat something else. BULLSHIT scientific research. Have you EVER heard of any one from japan writing a paper on Whales, their behaviour, breeding biology, migration, feeding habits, whatever? No. Have you ever heard of Chinese "scholars" write on Tiger biology? They CULTIVATE Tigers. To butcher, pierce, kill, slaughter, and SELL.. oh , and eat! 
    And here, we sit and eat vegetables! Those guys must think we're totally wacko to eat cabbages, brinjals, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes... blah blah..!! 
  Coming back to the actual point. Poaching. We have SOOOO many crazy abbreviations that apparently stand for agencies in this country. NTCA, TTF, WTI, WPSI, and what not!! Why then, are our Tigers still being sold to China? Why then are OUR wild animals being slaughtered by OUR people on someone ELSE's orders and shipped off to different parts of this world? Who is answerable? Who is responsible? Why are those responsible, still roaming free? Rapists get jailed and punished. Murderers too. Do I have reason to believe that a poacher in fact, is NOT a murderer?? Im sorry, I don't. I think they are exactly the same as murderers. And hence, deserve similar strict punishment. We know who the poachers are. We know where they live. We know their gang members. We know how they kill and when and where. We know what their targets are. We know who is the corrupt link in the administration. And yet, ALL of the above roam. Free. Because the Government, the Administration feels strongly, that they have "more important things to worry about than some random Tiger or some stupid Pangolin or Otter or Bird that got poached somewhere.."  Those are the people, who run this country. Who get ELECTED to the seats they SLEEP in. Who hoard money like its oxygen!! If only they had been that selfish about planting saplings, or their wildlife... 
    Sansar Chand himself was out of bail three times. There's more. Yes, there IS more. This is only the tip of that quintessential iceberg. More than 90% of wildlife crimes go UNREPORTED. Go un-Noticed. Why? Because no one cares. No one, gives a damn.  So when we read that A leopard skin has been recovered, there are 10 other Leopard skins... that have silently, slipped away into oblivion. And THAT silence, is downright scary. It's worrying NOW more than ever. We are not a nation or a world over flowing with wildlife that we can afford to have 555 kilograms of Pangolin scales, and 20 kgs of Tiger bones being dispatched here and there. 
   I rest my case. 

20kgs of Tiger Bones Caught in a Consignment

Over the last few days a series of raids in Guwahati have helped the investigative agency. The is perhaps the biggest seizure of tiger parts in recent times. 

Twenty kilograms of tiger skull and bones seized in the last four days from the Guwahati airport, valued at Rs 2 crore in the international market.

Ten grams of tiger parts sell at an estimated cost of 20 USD.

Commenting on the seizure, Sukanta Das, Superintendent Anti Smuggling Unit, Customs and Central Excise said,"It's an entire skeleton and it's a Royal Bengal Tiger as determined from the features of its skull."
Given the fact that the consignment was coming from Dimapur in Nagaland, central wildlife agencies suspect that the tigers may have been poached in Kaziranga. 

Kaziranga National Park has amongst the highest density of tigers in India, but it is also vulnerable to poaching.
"Dimapur is the hub of poachers. All these parts were on their way to China, because it was consigned to Imphal and from Imphal it goes via Moreh and to Myanmar and then to China," said Sukanta Das.
Along with tigers the consignments contained 555 kilograms of pangolin scales. Pangolins are protected under Schedule One of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. Its scales have a huge demand in China as traditional medicines. A kilogram of Pangolin scales is estimated to fetch around Rs 60,000.

From the enforcement perspective this seizure of tiger bones is very critical. It confirms the route of wildlife trade and establishes the fact that tiger trade is active in these parts. But the seizure must be followed up with investigation. 

Assam's International Airport Hub for Smuggled Wildlife Products

Mon Jun 21 2010 11:09:37 GMT+0530 (India Standard Time) by IANS

Shillong, June 21 (IANS) Assam’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport appears to have become one of the main transit points for smugglers to transport wildlife products to China and Far East Asia.
In less than a week, customs seized tiger skeletons and pangolin scales worth more than Rs.5 crore (over a million dollars) from the airport.
“From the frequent seizures, Guwahati has become the main hub for smugglers to tranship endangered wildlife products to China and the Far East via Myanmar,” North East Customs Commissioner S.R. Baruah told IANS.
India shares a 1,600-km unfenced border with Myanmar.
The modus operandi used by the smugglers has made the customs authorities rethink their strategy afresh.
For example, the address of the consigner and consignee are vague. The address of the consigner is simply Peter, Dimapur, while that of the consignee is K. Singh, Imphal, making it difficult to get to the poachers.
Customs sleuths Sunday seized from the airport another Royal Bengal Tiger skeleton and 271 kg of pangolin scales - 146 kg from Berhampur in Orissa and 125 kg from Dimapur (Nagaland).
The consignments were booked in Dimapur and Berhampur and sent through the railway mail service to Guwahati. It was meant to be airlifted to Imphal (in Manipur) by an airline.
This is the third seizure by customs officials in less than a week of endangered animal products intercepted at the Guwahati international airport.
“Transhipments of wildlife products through Guwahati airport to Imphal has been going on for quite some time. They (smugglers) take advantage of the airports scanners as they cannot detect biological objects,” Baruah said.
It appears Dimapur (in Nagaland) has become a collection centre of wildlife products due to its close proximity with Assam’s Karbi Anglong district and the Kaziranga National Park, the customs officials said.
“They (smugglers) have opted to tranship the wildlife products by flights rather than using the Dimapur-Imphal road (National Highway No.39) mainly to evade military checkpoints,” Baruah said.
Not only wildlife products but red sanders, a moderate-sized deciduous tree, bound for China and the Far East too have been smuggled out from Andhra Pradesh via New Delhi to Guwahati airport through domestic airlines.
Red Sanders, an endangered tree species, is smuggled out of India mainly through Manipur and Mizoram and a smuggling racket is active in the region, Baruah said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, customs sleuths seized a full-grown Royal Bengal Tiger skeleton from Guwahati airport along with 320 kg of pangolin scales.
A kilo of pangolin scales is worth about Rs.60,000 while a gram of crushed tiger bone costs almost Rs.1,000 in the international market.
“This is a huge concern. India’s tiger population simply cannot sustain such pressure. Every enforcement agency, government officer, politician, and every civilian should do whatever they can to stop this crime against India’s wild tigers,” Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India said over telephone from New Delhi.
“Tiger bones are largely smuggled to China for use in traditional medicines, fashion and high-end products,” Wright said.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poachers Target Pangolins

Poachers target pangolins
Guwahati, June 20: Rampant poaching has pushed pangolins, scaly ant-eating mammals, to the verge of extinction in the Northeast, but precious little has been done to save the endangered species listed in Schedule I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Wildlife inspector (eastern region) of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, A. Roy Choudhury, said the demand for pangolin scales used in traditional Chinese medicines had triggered pangolin poaching in the Northeast.
International trade in pangolin is prohibited as it is included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The species is also listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
Roy Choudhury who is posted at the bureau’s regional office in Calcutta was here in connection with the seizure of an Imphal-bound consignment of animal parts, including about 500kg of pangolin scales, from Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport here on June 16.
Pangolin scales are made of keratin, a strong natural protein that forms human fingernails. From one pangolin a maximum of 1.5 to 2kg of scales can be extracted, according to Roy Choudhury. “From the haul, we are sure that at least 250 pangolins were killed, which is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
Roy Choudhury said organised rackets based in places like Imphal, Dimapur and Moreh were behind smuggling of pangolin scales to China from the Northeast.
“We have information that pangolin scales are smuggled to Myanmar through the Moreh border from where these are taken to China.”
He said the porous Indo-Myanmar border in the insurgency-ridden Moreh region of Manipur is a problem area as far as smuggling of animal parts is concerned.
Roy Choudhury said Indian and Chinese pangolins are found across the Northeast. The Chinese variety is found only in the northeastern sta-tes while Indian pangolins are found in other parts of the country. There has been no survey or count of pangolins in the Northeast, but the authorities are alarmed at the scale of destruction.
The average life span of a pangolin is nearly 20 years.
On November 22, Assam Rifles seized 365 pangolin shells from three persons in Chandel district of Manipur. The chief wildlife warden of Assam, Suresh Chand, said a red alert had been sounded following the huge haul of pangolin scales by the customs department this year.

Sariska to get 2 more Tigers in July

JAIPUR: The roar of the tiger is all set to get louder at Sariska Tiger Reserve with the Centre finally approving relocation of two more tigers from Ranthambore National Park. The relocation of the big cats — one male and a female — is likely to take place on July 4. 

According to forest officials, though the tentative dates for the relocation has been fixed for July 4, attempts for the same will begin from July 1 itself. 

Sariska, as of now, has two female and a male tiger which were airlifted from Ranthambore between July 2008 and early 2009. However, further relocation attempts were put on hold after a few wildlife experts expressed fears that relocating the big cats without testing the genes to see if they belong to the same family might prove disastrous. 

“An expert team comprising Aparajita Dutta from the National Wildlife Conservation Trust and AJT John Singh, former professor of the Wildlife Trust of India, has been camping at Ranthambore since long. In fact, it is in response to a letter written by Dutta on the rising pressure in Ranthambore due to the increasing population of big cats that the Centre has finally agreed to relocate transient tigers from there to Sariska,” said Ram Lal Jat, forest minister. 

Officials of the state forest department said that DNA testing will continue alongside with relocation as it takes a lot of time. “The scats have been collected and sent for DNA testing. In this relocation, our prime objective would be to shift the two tigers which have strayed out of Ranthambore to Kota and Kailadevi. But in case we fail to locate them on that day, we will shift other identified tigers,” said an official. 

Two tigers — a female, T-37 and a male, T-47 — had strayed away from the Ranthambore reserve earlier this year and have refused to come back so far. Forest officials have been maintaining a watch on them and trying to bring them back to the reserve. . 

“We will try to shift distant animals so as not to affect the gene pool but even if the relocated animals are related in any way, we will try to correct it by relocating tigers from some other zone sometime later. There is, however, no question of incompatibility as the tigers from Ranthambore to be relocated are healthy,” he said. So far, nearly 10 tigers have been identified in the Ranthambore reserve for relocation, of which two will be chosen on that day. 

Meanwhile, permissions like that for the use of a helicopter for airlifting the tiger have already been taken and researchers from Wildlife Institute of India and state forest department are camping in Sariska, keeping a track of identified tigers.

NTCA visits Tiroda

NAGPUR: Finally, Tiroda could see some hectic activities. A six-member joint committee of top state officials and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will visit Tiroda on June 22 to inspect 163.84 hectare forest land proposed to be diverted for Adani Power Maharashtra Limited (APML) for its power plant. 

NTCA, a statutory body under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), has expressed concern over diversion of the forest land as it forms the corridor between 257 sq km Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur and 152 sq km Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Gondia. The panel will study the impact of land diversion on wildlife, particularly tigers. 

NTCA will be represented by wildlife conservationist Kishor Rithe. On the direction of P B Gangopadhyay, additional director general of forests (forest conservation), chief wildlife warden, A K Joshi constituted a committee under him on June 11. 

The other members of the panel are chief conservator of forests (CCF) for wildlife, Nandkishore, as member-secretary; CCF for Nagpur territorial circle, Krishna Mohan; deputy conservator of Gondia, Mukesh Ganatra and Prafulla Bhamburkar of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) as members. A meeting will also be held to discuss the issue at Bhandara at 10 am. The visit will follow thereafter. 

Two separate offences - one on May 16 and another on June 4 - have already been registered by Tiroda RFO against Adani Power for violating the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 by digging huge trenches in survey number 163 in Mendipur, in the proposed forest land sought by Adani. However, permission has not been granted to divert the land as it forms part of the tiger corridor. 

The APML was granted environment clearance for setting up a 1,320 mw (660mw x 2) coal-based thermal power project in Tiroda on May 29, 2008. The proposal was exempted from public hearing as it is located in the MIDC area. However, while according environmental clearance to the project, one of the conditions was to submit a plan for conservation of fauna reported in the study area. This was to be done in consultation with the wildlife department within three months and was to be implemented effectively. 
Shockingly, the plan has not been submitted even after the lapse of 15 months. The company agreed to follow the condition only after August 14, 2009, that too because of CCF (Central), Bhopal, A K Rana’s visit to Nagpur. 

Documents sought under the RTI Act show that APML had applied for expansion of another 660 mw project for which another 192 hectare land was needed. Of this, 163.84 hectare is forest land. The MoEF on September 10, 2008, prescribed terms of reference (TOR) for preparing the draft EIA report for the expansion project. 

The conditions of the TOR include whether the project is within ten kilometre of the sanctuary or falls in the migratory route; details of flora and fauna duly authenticated to be followed by a conservation plan. The company submitted a conservation plan, but CCF (wildlife) has picked up many flaws in it saying it was prepared without studying the impact area. The CCF (territorial), Nagpur, has already submitted the APML expansion project falls within the ten kilometre of the Nagzira sanctuary. 

“Since phase I and phase II are located at the same place, the impact of these projects in the study area and subsequent mitigative measures need to be studied taking them together along with the further expansion of the power project. Unless the environmental clearance is accorded to the said project, forest clearance under the FCA should also be kept in abeyance,” the report submitted to chief wildlife warden by the CCF states.

Friday, June 4, 2010

20 Animal Skins Seized in Uttarakhand

Skins of 20 wild animals were seized in Uttarakhand's Uttar Kashi district Friday, an NGO said. One person has been arrested.

Bullet marks were found on all the 14 skins of gorals, five skins of barking deer, and one of Eurasian otter, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) said in a statement.
The NGO helped the forest department in seizure at Singoni village.

A poaching gang is currently operating in the region and is suspected to have been involved in the killings. 'One person has been arrested in this connection,' the statement added.
The grey goral, a goat-antelope, is found in the Western Himalayas, and the barking deer or Indian muntjac is found across India except Jammu and Kashmir, the desert areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the high Himalayas.

Otters are carnivores specially adapted to living an aquatic life and are found in riverine ecosystems in many parts of India. Like tiger and leopard body parts, otter skins are in high demand in illegal Chinese markets.

All these species are protected under the Wild life Protection Act. Crimes involving these species are punishable with imprisonment.

Poaching is one of the main conservation threats to goral, barking deer and otter. The killing of prey species such as goral and barking deer is also a threat to big carnivores that live in the area.

7 Suviving Vultures to be Released

NAGPUR: The seven white-backed vultures who got fresh lease of life even after consuming poisonous meat of a bull, will be released in the wild on June 5, the World Environment Day. AK Joshi, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) for wildlife, Maharashtra, said the day to release the survived birds has been chosen looking into its significance. “I’ve already issued directions to the officials concerned to release the birds near their colonies,” said Joshi, speaking to TOI.

On April 18 and 19, around 27 vultures had consumed meat of a bull owned by Namdeo Satpute. The bull was undergoing treatment after it had consumed pesticide-infected vegetables. After the bull died, Satpute dumped it at the roadside. Vultures consumed its meat and started dying. Despite timely help from vets including raptor scientist Dr Ajay Poharkar, Dr Vilas Gadge and Dr Girish Gabhne, all from Nagpur, and Dr Shahaji Thawre, in-charge of vet hospital at Kunghada, only nine birds survived. Some birds had died instantly while others died during the course of treatment at veterinary clinic in Kunghada. In the first week of May, two vultures flew away and seven were remaining. “We will release these birds around 4 pm after examining them. A small programme has been organised to felicitate those who strived to save the birds,” said PR Yeole, conservator of forests (CF) for Gadchiroli Circle.

Earlier, Dr Poharkar had written to minister of environment & for-ests Jairam Ramesh to come for the release of the survived birds but he could not find time. The vultures are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. The deaths of 18 vultures was perhaps the biggest onslaught on the last surviving population in the tribal district. This is the second time when vultures survived after treatment will be released.

Sundarban's Saline Killer

Ashutosh Dali could not grow a single shoot in his field ever since it got flooded by saline water during last year’s Cyclone Aila. Yet, the 50-year-old fisherman will not go fishing any more. Not after what happened to him that winter morning three years ago. “Now, everytime I look at the forest, I see those blood-thirsty fangs. The terrifying growl still rings in my ears,” says Ashutosh, pointing to a deep gash on his left thigh. A botched attempt at tranquilizing a tiger had left two others wounded that morning. So, while his neighbours go fishing, Ashutosh — once a deft fisherman — keeps himself busy with his barren paddy field.

Between the World Environment Days of 2009 and 2010, no less than 25 tigers strayed into Sunderbans villages and left around a dozen people injured. Never before in recorded history has this tide country seen so many tigers venturing beyond the forest limits. The forest department has been reluctant to admit it, but wildlife experts believe this unique habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger is undergoing a change and there are enough indications to suggest that the terrain is turning increasingly hostile for the big cat. Several other species of flora and fauna are battling for survival as well in the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Rise in water level and increasing salinity in the rivers and creeks pose the biggest threat to the Sunderbans, according to experts. It has set off a chain of ecological mutations that has resulted in the flight of tigers from the southern end of the forest to the northern part, which is hemmed by human habitation. Frequent straying has been the inevitable result.

And its not just tigers that have been affected. Several species of dolphins and fishes, too, have either moved northward or gone extinct, claim scientists. Trees like sundari and passur and phundun have shifted from the outer estuary to the mid-estuary region, an indicator that saline water has penetrated deeper into the forest.

“It is clear that the Sunderbans is a victim of accelerated sea-level rise. Salt wedges from the sea have been extending inwards into the rivers and creeks as the water swells. This can be linked directly to the movement of tigers northward, leading to a higher density of big cats in the area and consequently more straying,” explained Pranabesh Sanyal, former director of Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

Said Tuhin Ghosh, senior lecturer of Jadavpur University’s School of Oceanographic Studies: “The increasing salinity upstream is changing the mangrove zonation. The trees and plants common in the southern Sunderbans can now be seen in the northern part as well. And some trees in the northern regions, which can’t stand too much salinity, are dying. This is changing the character of the forest and food availability for animals and some animals are migrating northward, some are adapting to the changed situation and some are getting extinct gradually.”

Salinity has gone up by 20% in the Sunderbans since 1990. Water level too has been rising by 3.14 mm on an average every year at Sagar Island while at Pakhiralay, the rate has been 5 mm/year. Sighting records confirm the scientists claims. According to Dinesh Mondal, a fisherman of Bali island, “It seems too many tigers are prowling around the villages of this region nowadays.” Dinesh is right. While more tigers would be seen in the southern areas of Haldibari and Mechua a decade back, most sightings now happen around Sudhanyakhali and Netidhiopani in the north. “This suggests that tigers have been migrating. But many of the prey animals haven’t, for they can withstand salinity better. So, we have an uneven concentration of tigers,” said Bittu Sehgal, wildlife activist. Further confirmation of salinity rise comes from the proliferation in the number of Irrawaddy dolphins in the northern creeks while the Gangetic dolphins that can’t survive in saline water have almost disappeared.

Also, cyclones and low-pressure disturbances have been moving north along the coast, veering closer to the Indian Sunderbans, instead of moving away towards Bangladesh as earlier. “A rough sea means more saline water and higher waves that could spell doom for the Sunderbans unless we have a proper mangrove barrier,” said Gautam Sen, oceanographer. According to a study, there has been a 20% reduction in mangrove cover since 1969, added Sen.

At least two islands of the Sunderbans have disappeared over the last three decades. Apart from the apparent sea level rise, the neo-tectonic movement in the region and other geomorphological reasons are active behind this phenomenon. It’s a dynamic process and new islands have been emerging as well, to compensate for the loss, argue scientists.

Then there are the anthropomorphic reasons. Of the 100-odd islands, 54 have no forest cover left, thanks to human colonization. People started settling on these islands around 250 years ago, when siltation was not yet complete and the islands were yet to be mature. The early settlers constructed embankments around the islands — altogether 3,500km — permanently affecting the natural balance of the region, according to social activist and Sunderbans expert Tushar Kanjilal.

The key to saving the Sunderbans is the preservation and plantation of mangroves. This will check salinity and prevent displacement of tigers, thereby bringing down the man-animal conflict. Fishing must be restricted and mangroves protected to give the Sunderbans a fresh lease of life.